Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is a legal concept involving one spouse providing financial support to the other spouse after a divorce or separation. The purpose of it is to help the spouse with lower income or fewer resources maintain a similar standard of living as during the marriage.

In this article, we will delve into the legal definition of this support, its objectives, types, factors influencing its award, and its role in family law.


Legal Definition of Alimony

Alimony is a court-ordered financial arrangement where one spouse (the “payor”) must make periodic payments to the other spouse (the “payee”) following a divorce or separation. These payments aim to assist the payee in maintaining a reasonable standard of living, considering their financial circumstances and needs.

Objectives of Alimony

Economic Fairness: Spousal support seeks to achieve economic fairness between divorcing spouses, preventing one from suffering a significant decline in their standard of living due to the divorce.

Financial Support: It serves as a form of financial support, particularly for the spouse who relied on the other’s financial contributions during the marriage.

Rehabilitation: In some cases, this spousal support helps the payee spouse while they undergo education or job training to become financially self-sufficient.

Child Support Complement: Alimony may complement child support payments, ensuring both spouses contribute to their children’s financial well-being.

Types of Alimony

Spousal maintenance can take various forms, depending on the circumstances and local laws:

Temporary: Awarded during divorce proceedings to cover immediate expenses.

Rehabilitative: Supports the payee spouse while they gain financial independence, often with a specific time frame.

Permanent: Has no predetermined end date and may apply in long-duration marriages with significant earning disparities.

Reimbursement: Compensates a spouse who supported the other’s education or career development during the marriage.

Lump-Sum: Involves a single, one-time payment, typically agreed upon by the divorcing couple.

Bridge-the-Gap: Assists the payee spouse in transitioning to single life for a short duration.

Factors Influencing Alimony Awards

Numerous factors influence spousal support decisions, which can vary by jurisdiction:

Duration of the Marriage: The marriage’s length often impacts awards, with longer marriages more likely to result in permanent support.

Financial Disparity: Differences in earning capacity and financial resources play a crucial role.

Standard of Living: The court aims to maintain the marriage’s standard of living when possible.

Contributions to the Marriage: Both financial and non-financial contributions are considered.

Age and Health: The spouses’ age and health, especially if one is in poor health or nearing retirement, are factors.

Child Custody and Support: Custody arrangements and child support payments affect awards.

Education and Career: The payee spouse’s education, job skills, and employability are assessed.

Circumstances of the Divorce: Depending on the jurisdiction’s laws, fault in the divorce (e.g., adultery or abuse) may be considered.

Modification and Termination of Alimony

Spousal support orders are subject to modification or termination under certain circumstances:

Change in Financial Circumstances: Significant changes in income, job loss, or increased expenses may lead to modification.

Cohabitation or Remarriage: Remarriage or cohabitation in a marriage-like relationship often results in termination.

Completion of Rehabilitation: If rehabilitative support was awarded, it may end once the payee spouse finishes their education or training.

Death of Either Spouse: Generally, these obligations cease upon the death of either spouse.


Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is a legal concept designed to provide financial assistance to a spouse after divorce or separation. It aims to ensure economic fairness, support the financial needs of the lower-earning spouse, and facilitate their transition to self-sufficiency.

Spousal support comes in various forms, influenced by factors such as marriage duration, financial disparities, and the standard of living. Courts may modify or terminate these orders based on changes in circumstances, like remarriage, financial changes, or completion of rehabilitation efforts.

Understanding alimony and its legal implications is crucial for individuals involved in divorce proceedings and family law matters.